Thursday, October 5, 2017

Emory Dance Company – Trisha Brown Dance Company Residency

Photography by Stephanie Berger
In 2017-18, the Emory Dance Program is hosting a year-long collaboration with the acclaimed Trisha Brown Dance Company. The collaboration began with a residency with two members of the company. Dancer Jamie Scott and Associate Director Carolyn Lucas set the historic work Solo Olos on six Emory Dance Company members. Jamie and Carolyn also engaged in a Creativity Conversation with the Emory community, where they provided us with insights into some of Trisha’s life and work. This residency took place over the course of two weeks in an intensive-style learning environment, and some of the students who worked closely with the artists shared their experiences with us. 

Trisha Brown was a post-modern dancer and choreographer beginning in the 1970s, and was very intrigued by task-oriented movement. Solo Olos is a work she originally created for five people, whereby one caller determines which movement sequences the dancers on stage will execute. The dancers can be guided, interrupted, and asked to leave by the caller at any point in time. Solo Olos was set on Emory dancers over the course of a two-week intensive, with rehearsals every weekday for three hours, and every weekend for eight hours. Read on to find out more.

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity

Why were you interested in being a part of this work? What has been your favorite part of the process?

“I really admire Trisha Brown and saw the chance to be in one of her pieces as a once in a lifetime opportunity. My favorite part of the process has been working with Jamie in rehearsals and in class, because I was able to see how Brown's style of movement transcended Solo Olos into all of her other works. To be able to play with so many of her pieces was really fun and helped me to embody and understand the movement.” – Elise Stumpf ‘21

“My favorite part of the process was reversing the material.  Jamie taught us the forward version of the phrases, but we had to work through the reverse on our own or in small groups.  This was definitely a challenge, but it was a lot of fun and I think I learned a lot about the forward movement by going through it in such depth to find the reverse.” – Serena Schmitt ‘19

“I've been really interested in learning and performing Solo Olos ever since last semester, when I heard about Trisha Brown Dance Company potentially coming for a residency. It is such an iconic work within Trisha's repertory, but also within the post-modern dance era. My favorite part of the process has been reversing the phrases. Although it took a lot of brain power and time, it was rewarding to know that I'm capable of retrograding movement.” – Maggie Vail ‘18

“While most pieces I’ve been in seem to have some sort of underlying meaning or theme, Solo Olos seems to lack this element and feels more like a game. The actual movement requires a sense of release in the body while still being super specific, which was a difficult quality to find and incorporate choreographically.” – Serena Schmitt ‘19

“You cannot let the movement take you on its ride, you have to constantly be hyper-aware and alert.” – Katie Messina ‘18

“Because of the structure of the work, we as dancers have to have a lot of mental and physical adeptness to reverse phrases on command and think on the spot, but it's really beautiful and fulfilling to be a part of a work that is constantly changing. As a cast, we're working together so smoothly that we're able to decipher what the caller and fellow dancers are trying to do and catch on.” – Maggie Vail ‘18

How did learning this piece in an intensive style environment feel? Do you think it changed the way you interpreted the work?

“The intensive style made me appreciate the piece because the more time and effort put in, the more feasible the piece became through constant rehearsal. It all began to flow and come together into Trisha Brown's vision, and it was great to see the transition.” – Alex Faife ‘21

“I think being with Jamie every day for two weeks definitely helped in learning the material. The choreography wasn't something that I could've easily taken a break from and come back to. Learning it in an intensive format feels very internal and intuitive to me because we've practiced it so much in such a short period of time.” – Elise Stumpf ‘21

“This is my fifth intensive with the Emory Dance Program (Bebe Miller, Sara Barry, Dante Brown, Yossi Berg and Oded Graf Dance Theater, and now Trisha Brown Dance Company), so I've had my share of experiences learning work within an expedited time span. I think learning Solo Olos in a two-week period was useful for learning the material forwards and backwards, and drilling how to respond to the caller/s with ease. Those two weeks definitely took immense physical and mental power, but I'm thankful for Jamie Scott and the practice because we can run the piece with much more confidence during our maintenance rehearsals.” – Maggie Vail ‘18

If you were ever a caller, please describe that experience. Did you enjoy it?

“I am most likely going to call at least one of the shows we perform. I struggled with this decision. I really want to dance as much as possible in my final year at Emory, so in theory, calling means you do not physically dance as much. Additionally, it is hard for people who are unfamiliar with her work to grasp the true importance of the caller. I personally really enjoy calling. I feel very calm in it, and like being the architect of the piece and space.” – Katie Messina ‘18

Calling was a lot of fun for me. It provides an opportunity to compose the space as you’re seeing it, which is really unique. It’s really fascinating to see what can come out of the piece just by calling a few simple things, as the structure of the piece and the different tracks within it already allow for some interesting compositions.” – Serena Schmitt ‘19

“I was a caller a few times and I enjoyed it, but wouldn't say I was very good at it. It is difficult to do because the caller needs to understand the map of the piece really well to know when to call, what to call, who to call, and how to call it in order for the piece to continuously flow. The caller needs to bring the dancers in and out of unison, and has to ultimately bring everyone back to the beginning together after 10-12 minutes.” – Alex Faife ‘21

How did your historical background knowledge of Trisha Brown affect your perception of this piece?

“I learned about Trisha Brown in high school and have been a fan of her work since then because of its uniqueness and complexity. My knowledge that her pieces were physical and have a specific theme gave me a preconception of what working with Jamie would be like, but actually learning and rehearsing it definitely showed me just how rigorous her work is.” – Alex Faife ‘21

“I think my knowledge about Trisha Brown and her style from Emory’s Dance History course prepared me for this piece and gave me a good idea of what to expect. Having learned the work, I now have experienced this piece and perceive it almost as a game, which fits into this perception I had of Trisha Brown’s work being very task-oriented.” – Serena Schmitt ‘19

“Having seen videography of Trisha Brown’s work, I would say at first this piece seemed daunting because I was trying to imitate her movement, but I think in doing that I realized it's not about imitating her as much as it is about embodying a feeling and quality, which made the movement feel more natural to me.” – Elise Stumpf ‘21

Thank you Alex, Elise, Katie, Maggie and Serena!

Click here for a more in-depth analysis of the life and work of Trisha Brown!

For more information on our Fall dance events please check out our calendar here or follow us on our Facebook page!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Emory Dance Summer Studies: Bates Dance Festival

Photography by Jonathan Hsu

One of our senior dance and movement studies majors, Maggie Vail, had the opportunity to work as an administrative intern for Bates Dance Festival this past summer. BDF is a festival hosted by Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, that emphasizes dance’s power to change the world around us. This summer program, at which Maggie both interned and attended, is a six-week series of classes, lectures, exhibits, and the creation and performance of dance works by many featured artists. She had many duties as an intern, including being a liaison between the festival and the Bates College housing office and managing the Young Choreographer’s Showcase. Maggie is finishing her Arts Management concentration from Goizueta Business School this year, and speaks about how the Emory Dance faculty have helped her pursue her goals as a dancer. Read on for more about her experiences.

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity

Describe your position and responsibilities with your BDF internship this past summer.

My specific duty as an administrative intern was to liaison between the festival and the Bates College housing office. I arrived a week before the start of the festival to pick up keys from the conferences and campus events manager, and organize them to be distributed to festival attendees. We would have visiting artists rotate weekly, so I coordinated with the dance company departing to ensure a smooth transition between companies coming and going.

My other job was to manage the Young Choreographer's showcase at the end of the festival. Students in the Professional Training Program (the last three weeks of the festival) have a chance to choreograph for an informal public showcase and have their work adjudicated by festival artists. I coordinated with the selected choreographers, the tech/production team, and social media interns to market the show.

What are some of the skills/insights you took away from this experience?

The festival really values their interns and makes sure that they are acquiring valuable skills rather than pushing paper or fetching coffee. Immersing myself in the operations of the festival let me experience fundraising, marketing, and logistics first-hand. My supervisors had the office interns look at materials from past seasons (press kits, grants, etc.) as a learning resource. The biggest insight I took from this experience is that I am so thankful and appreciative for the festival and the people behind it. It takes a lot of passion and drive to run an arts organization, especially at this present time. People are working hard to advocate for dance and the arts, but we need to keep working!

How has your concentration in arts management affected your pursuits in dance?

Immediately diving into the Emory Dance Program during my freshman year has given me a holistic perspective of the field of dance. My sophomore year, Full Radius Dance offered me a semester long internship, where I was introduced to arts administration. I then assisted the Stephen Petronio Company in New York with their digital archives the past two summers, after my acceptance into the Arts Management program at Emory's Goizueta Business School, and most recently attained this internship. It is all thanks to the Emory Dance faculty and the department as a whole for supporting my passion for administrative work. I am planning to pursue a professional dance career after graduation, but my long-term aspiration is to have a career in arts administration.

What were some of your favorite movement courses you took while at BDF and what did you take away from them?

During the Professional Training Program, interns worked in the office two periods and took two classes, rather than taking four classes like the other students. My first class was Modern V with Claudia Lavista, and I ended the day with Shakia Johnson's Hip-Hop Repertory class. 

Being placed in the most advanced level of modern, I was very intimidated taking class with some of the most talented dancers at the festival. Claudia's class played with the ideas of body connectivity and fluidity to make movement the most efficient. In order to grasp those ideas, we mainly did floor work. I came out of those three weeks with more release and fluidity in my movement, and therefore, stronger. I continue to work on the exercises at school!
What were some of your most memorable experiences with BDF?

The people. I reunited with some friends from the festival or other intensives, and made a ton of new friends. Competition is not a priority at Bates Dance Festival; we support and encourage each other because we share a common love for dance and the festival. The artists are also super friendly and welcoming. At the very end of the festival when only the staff, video, and office interns were around, all of us went out to dinner. We reflected on the season, laughed, and it was an amazing way to spend my last moments at Bates with people I truly cherish.

During the final week of the Young Dancers Workshop, two of the youngest dancers in the program created a work for the informal showing, but halfway through their piece the music unexpectedly cut out. Shocked and scared, these girls stood still. The musicians started to sing the melody, the other 90 people in the room joined in on the song, and the girls continued their dance to the end. That loving, encouraging spirit best expresses the community and family created at the Bates Dance Festival.

Thank you Maggie!

Find out more about Bates Dance Festival here!

For more information on our Fall dance events please check out our calendar here or follow us on our Facebook page!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Emory Dance's New Yoga Wall

Yoga has become an integral part of the Emory Dance Program’s somatic course work, and our rope wall allows for a deepening in the investigation of the yoga practice. A rope wall primarily allows students to experience the poses with a different relationship to gravity, often using the weight of the body, and allowing the muscles and spine to stretch in a new way. 

The ropes can be used in a variety of ways to open areas of the body like the shoulders, to allow for traction in the spine, and to increase side length, to name a few of the benefits. They are especially helpful with inversions and restoratives, and can be useful for practitioners with injuries. The photo above pictures students in a hanging headstand. Using the ropes in this manner allows the student to invert and enjoy the pleasure of being upside-down without any pressure on the neck. 

Students in our Applied Yoga somatic practices class (taught by Professor Anna Leo) first used the wall during the spring 2017 semester. Construction of the wall was supported by the Kaplan Family Dance Fund and was built by talented Emory University carpenter Guy Mitchell.